`Financial Incentives' Cited in Foster Care: Child-Welfare Industry Official Denies Charge of Profiting from SSI Payments

Article excerpt

A House panel yesterday was told that some foster-care agencies keep children in their care longer than necessary to keep government subsidies, sparking a protest from a child-welfare industry official.

Child-welfare agencies "have financial incentives" to keep children in foster care too long, said Valora Washington, program director for the Families for Kids Initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich.

Miss Washington also told the House Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources that some agencies keep part of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for disabled children instead of passing them on.

David S. Liederman, executive director of Child Welfare League of America, flatly rejected such allegations.

The foster-care system, he said, "is under stress" and will become more stressed as welfare reform advances and fragile families are pushed into foster care. Accreditation could help correct many of the problems in state agencies, he told the House panel.

"It's time to put the welfare of the child as paramount," said Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., Florida Republican and subcommittee chairman.

Miss Washington said her comments are based on statements from child-welfare experts in 11 states who cited financial incentives as barriers to adoption.

But Maureen K. Hogan, executive director of Adopt A Special Kid/America, a 25-year-old group that offers free placement of children into adoptive homes, said she has "ample documentation" of financial abuses in the system.

"It is our unavoidable conclusion," she told the subcommittee, "that the biggest single barrier to adoption is the fact that the children have become profit centers for agencies."

Meanwhile, Reps. …